Tony Sarsam has been CEO of Dallas-based Borden Dairy Co. for only a short time — since March. But the veteran food company executive is already knee-deep in plans for three major growth initiatives at the 161-year-old privately held company, which operates 13 dairy plants across the United States.
New product development is one of those initiatives, he told Dairy Foods magazine. Borden Dairy aims to develop offerings that meet current “macro trends” and consumer needs. And millennials certainly will be getting some attention here.
“Millennials are eager for healthy alternatives,” Sarsam noted. “They’re eager for products that are convenient to use. And they love to be indulged. We need to do a good job on those platforms.”
Working in Borden Dairy’s favor here is the history and trust associated with the company, he said.
“As we bring new products to market, we don’t have to convince folks that we’re a great food company; we’re already a great food company,” Sarsam said. “We were America’s dairy for the better part of a century.”
But he understands that many great food companies, including Borden Dairy, also have room for improvement outside of the new product arena. So new service-related capabilities that enhance reliability — and more — also are a priority.
“Both our retailers and our end users should see us as a company that provides great-quality products and great service,” Sarsam emphasized.
Acquisitions, too, will be key to the company’s growth plan. Although Borden primarily will be eyeing dairy businesses, the company also will be exploring other possibilities.
“Fundamentally, we provide healthy beverages,” Sarsam said. “There are nondairy types of expressions that could be interesting acquisitions for us in that space.”
As it moves forward on all three initiatives, Borden Dairy will need to leverage the talents of its 3,500 employees. But that part should be easy, Sarsam suggested.
“They love what they do; they love the brand, just like most Americans,” he said. “People here are very tenured, very loyal and doing some great work for us.”
But the growth plans do bring some challenges. After all, improvements to communication and base business processes on the service side and the formation of new marketing and R&D teams on the new product front can’t be accomplished overnight.
“There’s so much great work to do here that it can be overwhelming at times,” Sarsam admitted.
He is optimistic about his plans for the company, however.
“As we build, we’ll look to be an employer of choice — or a people-first organization,” Sarsam added. “We’ll be competitive with pay and benefits, and we’ll have a great management team that helps steward, train and lead the broader organization.”
Sarsam is also excited about the future of the overall dairy industry. Although some observers might look at flat-to-declining sales and see the glass as half empty, he views the current situation differently. After all, pockets of dairy such as pint ice cream, drinkable yogurt and high-protein, low-sugar milk are seeing a growth explosion.
“If I take the third of dairy that’s growing the fastest, it’s growing faster than any other aisle,” Sarsam said. “And it’s a big category. That’s a lot of nice playground for a company to grow.”